The Last Tritan Ch. 04byWaterBurn©
Hello again beautiful readers! SO sorry for the wait, I was having a lot of trouble with this chapter, but my editor is brilliant, and slapped me into shape. I hope you enjoy this as much as you've enjoyed the previous chapters!
Please feel free to vote, comment or send me an email! I usually respond to everything, even if it takes me some time (and provided you leave me a return address.)
The front lines. It was the absolute last place on Earth I wanted to be, but thanks to Captain Rawlings, I was going to experience first-hand what it was like to watch an Elite in action. And he was going to use me to do it.
We arrived at the command post after a frightful car ride with Marco behind the wheel. He'd been busy lighting a cigarette and narrowly missed both other cars and a few buildings, I wondered if he'd been taught to drive by a blind man. The captain stepped out of the vehicle looking as green as I felt, grabbed my hand, and dragged me with him as he jogged up the steps.
"What's the situation Gabe?" He asked in an authoritative voice.
"They've built some kind of shield sir. Our guns don't have enough firepower to punch through them."
At the mention of the regular soldiers using guns, I snapped to attention. I'd been told they couldn't use an Elite's weapon, but if my information had been wrong, the Elorans were in far more trouble than I'd originally thought - and I'd assumed they'd already lost the war. On the other hand, if they could use energy weapons, perhaps I could too?
Without saying a word, the captain walked across the office, opened a large glass case in the center of the room and withdrew a massive, cruel looking gun. The instant his fingers touched the smooth metal of the handle, it came to life, beeping shrilly in the heavy silence. My manacles began to burn, and his men cheered.
"Shit captain," said Marco, slapping his commanding officer on the back. "The little wild cat packs a helluva punch!"
"Yes. She does," replied the captain, catching my eye, while I tried to rub the heat out of my wrists and throat.
"I've never seen a weapon charge so quickly," said Gabe, a distinct note of awe in his voice.
"Having a Priestess has its advantages," the captain said, stroking the side of my face with his free hand. "Now, let's see what we can do about these rebels, shall we?" He placed a hand on my back, guiding me from the building and into the cool evening air. I could feel his excitement bubbling subtly beneath the surface, and I was quite suddenly desperate to go back to his residence - consequences be damned.
"What are you going to do?" I said, and tripped over my feet - going without proper nourishment for so long was starting to take a toll.
"Whatever needs to be done," he replied, steadying me easily.
"Their shields seem to absorb the energy from our weapons, sir," said Gabe, interrupting our conversation. "We ran out of charge cells half an hour ago, and they've been advancing ever since."
"Clever bastards," said the captain under his breath. "Marco, order a new shipment of cells, and inform General Tilcot of this development."
"Already done, sir," said Marco with a smug smile. "And the general is enroute. Said he'd like to see this for himself."
"I'll bet he does. It's hard to imagine they could've come up with a viable defense," replied the captain, absently checking over his weapon. "In the meantime, allow me to charge your guns, gentlemen," he said. Both men handed him what looked like a battery, and his features took on the appearance of extreme concentration. My manacles began to burn anew.
The battery in his hand instantly lit up, glowing an intense green. The captain's bark of laughter surprised me, but when he spun on his heel, scooped me up in his arms and kissed me square on the mouth, I was nothing short of stupefied.
"My God Mila, your power!" He said and released me. He charged Marco's battery with equal efficiency, and said, "Jasper is going to be livid when he sees what I can do with you." My blood ran cold at the mention of the slaver, and his promise of retribution. Asher continued walking, an obvious bounce to his step. "The rebels aren't going to know what's hit them."
The captain's eagerness did nothing to temper the panic flowing through my veins - knowing he was going to use me against the rebels had sweat beading on my forehead, and my pulse pounding in my throat. I would feel directly responsible if he killed someone with my power.
"We'd better stop here, sir," Gabe said when we reached a park. "Don't want to give them the advantage in this half-light."
"How close are they?" Asked the captain in an undertone, scanning the area.
"On the far side of the park, sir. Just past that statue," Gabe responded quietly, motioning with his weapon. "The rest of the unit is waiting behind these buildings, in case they push forward," he said, nodding to the abandoned houses behind us. The captain smiled, evidently pleased with his unit's efficiency.
I took a moment to try and analyse Asher's newfound strength, and found it was enough to distract from the situation brewing around us. His power felt absolute, and while it terrified me, I was determined to find a way to balance the scales between us.
"Good evening gentlemen," said General Tilcot in a quiet voice. I spun, surprised the captain's brilliant power had been enough to stop me from feeling the general approach. Sasha followed quietly behind him, her head bowed. My throat tightened at the sight - she looked completely broken.
"Are you ok?" I whispered as the men began discussing strategies to subdue the rebels. Sasha flinched at the sound of my voice, but otherwise didn't respond. "I'm sorry," I continued, my heart aching for her. I thought of Kyra, and the wordless support she'd given me at the auction, and rested my hand on Sasha's arm.
"Quit your stalling Asher!" Said the general in a loud whisper. "Let's see what you can do with our wild cat."
"She's my wild cat, sir," the captain replied, a smug smile gracing his lips, and the general chuckled. "Marco, take the Priestesses to cover," the captain continued, pointing at a nearby abandoned shop.
"With pleasure sir," Marco replied, placing a hand on my shoulder, which I angrily slapped away.
"I won't let you do this," I said, placing my hands on my hips. The captain turned slowly, a savage glint in his eye.
"And how do you plan to stop me Mila?" He asked, and my manacles burned as he forced me to my knees. I glared at him until he forced my head down too, and found myself at a complete loss for words, his point clearly made. "I thought so," he said, and hauled me up by the arm. "Nothing happens to her Marco. Understood?" He asked, eyes burning into mine.
"God himself couldn't have been clearer, sir," Marco said as he engaged his weapon.
"Just go," the captain replied in an exasperated voice. Marco settled a warm hand on my arm and escorted Sasha and I to the abandoned shop.
"Babysitting duty, eh?" I said, trying to recover some of my bravado when we were safely inside. "You mustn't be a very effective soldier."
"You can think that way if you'd like, wild cat. Doesn't bother me," he rested his hip against a counter, and regarded me with an amused expression. "Or, you could consider the possibility that I'm Captain Rawling's right hand man, and he wouldn't trust your safety to anyone else."
"He doesn't seem terribly concerned with my safety," I said, and I was rewarded with a tiny, fragile smile from Sasha. I squeezed her hand in support. "What's he going to do?" I said, abruptly changing the subject. "To the rebels, I mean."
"We're going to have a pretty good view. Be patient," he replied, nodding toward the large window overlooking the park. Upon seeing the strain on my face, he sighed, and said, "I imagine he'll try to take any survivors as slaves."
"That's horrible," I whispered, throat tightening at the thought.
"They get to keep their lives," he replied.
"There are worse things than death," I retorted.
"And being a slave is one of them?" He asked.
"Have you tried it?"
"I'm a Caledonian."
"Yes, and we're Tritans," I replied, touching Sasha's hand. "Do you think being Caledonian makes you better than us?" I hissed, rattled by his flawed logic.
"Of course! For starters, we've never lost a war," he said, counting his point with a raised finger. I cried out, interrupting his tirade when my wrists began to burn intensely, reminding me of the agony I'd suffered when they'd been bound to my skin. Molten gold was coursing through my veins all the way up to my forearm. I could only imagine what my face - with similar golden streaks - must look like.
"Such power," Marco whispered, before turning to watch the window. "Here we go," he said, his excitement palpable. I turned my attention toward the darkened park, waiting for the captain to wreak havoc on the rebels. Before I had the chance to steady myself, I collapsed, a massive energy drain forcing me to my knees.
The ground shook with the force of a mighty explosion, but the feeling was secondary to the pain ripping through my body. White-hot flames circled my wrists and throat, the agony silencing my screams before they were heard.
"Holy shit! That was incredible!" I heard Marco shout, before my vision blurred, and my world went dark.
"Mila!" Sasha cried, but it sounded as if she was a long way off, and I couldn't find the strength to answer her. Gentle hands stroked my face, and the warm glow of a healer entered my body. "I can't fix this," Sasha sobbed. "You have to stop him! He's killing her!" The sound of rapidly retreating footsteps penetrated the heavy fog swirling in my head, and a moment later I took a deep gasping breath.
The pain had dissipated somewhat, and I was able to muster the will to open my eyes, albeit slowly. My head was cradled in Sasha's lap, her tear stained face looking down at me fearfully.
"That was," I paused to take a deep, steadying breath. "Fucking horrible," I said, unable to find more elegant words. My voice was thready and weak, and I was covered in sweat as if I'd been running for hours.
"Oh," Sasha said, as a fresh wave or tears poured down her face.
"What happened?" I asked, trying to sit up. She held me down with ease, speaking volumes about my weakened state.
"Where is she?" The captain shouted, nearly tearing the door from its hinges in his haste, making quite a spectacle of himself. "Mila, are you OK?" Anxiety was stamped all over his handsome face as he dropped to his knees by my side, touching my cheek tenderly. I jerked back, positive he was not concerned for me, but for his Priestess.
"It's rather obvious I'm still alive, but beyond that I cannot fathom why you should care," I replied in a hoarse whisper, pushing away his soothing hands. He lifted me from Sasha's lap, holding me against his chest. When I tried to pull away his grip tightened, the masculine scent of his body an unexpected distraction from his strange, protective behavior.
"Don't move," he said in an authoritative voice.
"Don't tell me what to do," I snapped, baring my teeth in warning. His hand snaked into my hair, fingers compulsively stroking my scalp.
"Glad to see your mouth's intact," he said laughing, and closed his eyes for a moment. "You scared me to death Priestess."
"I'm not a Priestess," I said, wondering if ignorance of my craft had caused the problem.
"Of course you are," he replied.
"No. She isn't," said Sasha, with a surprising amount of vigor in her voice. "She hasn't been trained," she continued, confirming my suspicions.
The captain's hand tightened in my hair, and his body stilled.
"What does that mean, girl?" The general asked, standing by the door. At the sound of his voice Sasha flushed, and looked away.
"Mila's an Empath, sir."
"What's that?" The captain demanded, arms still wrapped around me.
"An untrained Priestess whose life force is directly connected to the Earth's energy, sir. She's never learned to separate herself from it," she said in a soft voice. "When you fire your weapon, it will drain her long before you can exhaust the Earth's energy. You'll kill her."
Silence reigned for a moment after Sasha had finished speaking, and the sounds of battle could be heard in the distance. That is, until I started to laugh, shaking with mirth in the captain's arms. The irony of the situation nearly too much for me to bear.
"I told you so," I said in a singsong voice. "You can't use your new toy without breaking it!" I gasped clutching my sides, exhaustion making me giddy. The captain's dark eyes met mine for a moment, his expression unreadable.
"Can she be trained?" He asked, ignoring me. Sasha paused, staring at her hands as if they held the answers she was searching for.
"It's not impossible, sir. But it won't be easy."
"I imagine I'd need to try, which I won't be doing," I said defiantly, trying to wriggle out of his lap and failing. "Why would I train if it means I'd be putting a weapon in your hands?" I asked. Sasha's head snapped up, the look in her eyes grabbing my attention like nothing else could.
"Mila, an untrained Priestess is dangerous. Volatile," Sasha said quietly, holding eye contact. If the head Priestess wanted to train me - and she was making that abundantly clear - perhaps she had an ulterior motive? It was certainly worth the chance to speak with her privately.
"Can we talk about this another time?" Asked Marco, standing slightly behind the general, and interrupting my train of thought. "Battle in progress and all that," he said, gesturing over his shoulder. "On second thought, it's really more of a clean-up at this point. You've made quite a mess out here Captain," he continued, holstering his gun.
"Yes, our wild cat's quite spectacular, isn't she?" Asked the general, motioning to Sasha. "Just needs a little training."
"My wild cat, sir," the captain reminded, habitually running his hand through my hair. He hauled me to my feet, shepherding me from the shop, and kept a hand on the back of my neck as I swayed. The desire to slap his hand away flared inside me briefly, but gathering the required strength proved too much for my exhausted mind and body. I relaxed into his touch, surprised to find myself grateful for the support as we approached Gabe and the battlefield.
My jaw slackened when I saw the carnage he'd wrought with his energy gun in so short a time. The entire area was lit up with what appeared to be permanent lightening dancing across the ground, as if there were too much energy concentrated in one location. I could see what must have been the rebel's shield overturned beside an enormous hole in the ground, and it appeared the captain had focused his shot in front of their defense. It looked like the resulting explosion had pushed their shield out of the way.
Incredibly, there was movement in the rubble. A young man, probably no older than myself, was stumbling aimlessly amidst the burning wreckage of the park.
"Gabe," said the captain as we approached, nodding at the young rebel. "We can always use a free set of hands."
"Sir," Gabe replied with a salute. Given my history of freeing slaves, the thought of watching him being forced into a life of servitude to the Caledonians was abhorrent. I couldn't let it happen.
I feigned a stumble, landing harder than I'd planned on my bruised knees, my cry of pain genuine. The captain was immediately by my side, running a hand over my exposed back.
"Come on, Mila. Let's get you home," he said soothingly. I waited, however, until Marco stood beside us. When I accepted the captain's hand, he helped me stand on shaking legs. I thanked him by yanking Marco's gun from the holster - and pointed it directly at the captain's face.
Taking two large steps away from the red-faced Marco, I said, "Call him off, Asher." Thankfully my voice was steady and the slight waver in my grip was masked by my body trembling with exertion - I wasn't entirely sure if I was bluffing or not. Shock flickered across the captain's features, before his eyes landed on the gun in my hands. A sexy, confident little smile began to form on his lips, and I hesitated, instantly feeling off balance.
"Go ahead, darling," he said, stroking the wrist cuff that matched my chains. "Shoot." The reminder of his power over me was chilling, and I was now positive I'd overplayed my hand. No one could be that cocky with a gun in their face - even if he could my every movement.
My eyes flicked to Gabe, who had stopped to watch the unfolding action, shock scrawled across his features, his mouth hanging open. From my peripherals, I was able to watch as uninjured Eloran rebels picked up their wounded, and guided the disoriented man away from the park. Thankfully, it appeared no one had been killed, so I returned the captain's arrogant smile - the rebels would live to fight another day.
"You're missing a few key pieces of that weapon, Mila," the captain said, taking a step toward me. Marco pulled his sleeve back, exposing a black wrist cuff embedded in his skin. "It won't fire for anyone except the owner. Which you are not."
I stood my ground as he continued leisurely walking toward me, not flinching when he frowned, his eyes darkening. I pulled the trigger.
"Bang," I whispered when nothing happened. His bark of laughter echoed around the park.
"Passion and fury, Mila," he said, reminding me of his theory on my volatile nature. My cheeks flushed hot, and he grinned, plucking the weapon from my fingers and tossing it back to Marco. "I trust you can handle the situation from here?" The captain asked, giving Marco a look that said he wasn't sure.
"Of course, sir," Marco replied.
"Come along Sasha," the general said, and she placed her hand in his without hesitation. "I'd like Mila's training to begin immediately, Asher," he continued, walking with us as we headed away from the scene of destruction.
"Naturally, sir," replied the captain, squeezing the back of my neck as we started walking. They began discussing a time for Sasha and I to meet, but my attention had begun to wander and I didn't catch the details. I was well and truly worn out, and wanted nothing more than to find some dark corner, curl up, and fall asleep.
"Do you feel emotions?" Sasha asked in an undertone.
"Of course," I answered, perplexed by the strange question.
"No," she said shaking her head. "I meant to ask if you can feel the emotions of those around you," she whispered, and her eyes darted toward our Elites as she spoke. I nodded, trying not to draw their attention to us. She closed her eyes, twisting her hands fretfully.
"Can't you?" I asked, prompting her to explain.
"It's what makes you an Empath, Mila. What makes you different," she said, speaking quickly. "It's only going to get worse the longer you're around people."
"So? Knowing why my enemies behave in certain ways has been incredibly useful so far," I replied, thinking of the insights I'd gleaned at dinner.
"It's going to get you killed," she said, touching my arm. "If you're sharing the emotions or the energy of someone who's dying..." she trailed off, biting at her lip.
"I'll die too," I said, finishing for her. She nodded, tears pooling in her luminous blue eyes.
"I can help you," she said, wrapping her arms around me.
"I hate to break up this tender moment," said the general, making Sasha jump. "But we've got places to be, girl. Let's go."
"Yes sir," she replied, hurrying after him without looking back. The captain continued walking and settled a warm hand on my lower back - but I was too caught up in what Sasha had said to bother swatting his hand away. I wondered what other important knowledge she had, and if my being different meant I could help the other Priestesses. And what if death was the only way to break my bond with Asher? Did I care?